August 2, 2012 by ray_emily
Here are three BIG things I want to focus on, this year. (There are also about 18 million little things that I want to
start doing steal from you; I’ll save those for later.)
#1. Incorporate more rich tasks.
Man, they are popping up everywhere, these days. (Especially since joining twitter. It’s like I can’t escape them.) I have no excuse!
In the past, I’ve integrated a handful of 3 Act Tasks and perplexing activities, but I have certainly not prioritized it. I want this sort of ultra-engaging activity to happen more often in my classroom. In the past, when I have played around with this stuff, I’ve experienced exactly what y’all have experienced. Kids get curious, and, in turn, they get invested. When they’re invested, the excitement is palpable. In those moments, my classroom is a crazy-fun place to be. I want more!
My goal is to include some sort of rich task at least once per week. (Doing this will, in fact, be vital for goal #2.) I’m going to start collecting some really choice middle school level tasks, asap, and mapping them onto my long-term plan. Will certainly keep you posted.
#2. Launch e-Portfolios project, and stick to it.
This year, for the first time ever, my students are going to reflect on their development as mathematicians in an online e-Portfolio. A colleague and I have put a lot of thought into designing this project, and we’re super psyched.
We were largely inspired by Bryan Meyer (over here). In fact, our original plan was (teehee) to steal all of his stuff and basically throw it at our kids. As we’ve chatted about this endeavor, however—both at the end of last year and over the summer—our vision has evolved somewhat.
Just as Bryan outlines, kids will reflect on various ‘habits of a mathematician,’ and evaluate how well (or how poorly) they are adopting and utilizing these habits. We’re not using Bryan’s habits (which are thoughtful, thorough and concise) – but, instead, the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. This move was (sigh) at the “strong encouragement” of an administrator, who is excited about the project, too. (It’s okay. I get it. It is time to embrace CCSS. I’m on board, I swear… but: Has anyone noticed that these bad boys are written in really, REALLY dense language? Oof, I get a headache reading them.)
Furthermore, our kids are going to post their reflections to their personal math blogs (rather than archiving them in binders), where they will also upload ‘artifacts’ (digital photos of problems completed on whiteboards or in homework /notes / wherever) that will serve as the basis for their reflecting / growth-monitoring. I’m hoping to get kids to comment each others’ blog posts, also. My colleague and I have hashed out a bunch of other details and resources, which I’ll write about and share, soon.
This project is a really big deal to me because (a) all of my kids will become math bloggers (!! – seriously, how sweet is that?), and (b) it will act as an impetus for me to get my act together with regards to goal #1. In the words (comment) of @fawnpnguyen (who puts it far more eloquently than I can), the portfolio will “provide a mainstay for the curriculum so that ‘doing math’ is not home decor, it’s the foundation/plumbing/electrical of the house itself.” (If we do it right, that’s what will happen.)
#3. Start using clickers. (Alternatively: Integrate more meaningful and frequent formative assessment.)
My school has several sets of clickers, which generally sit and collect dust. I surmise that my colleagues are fearful of the technology, and/or fearful of how such technology might alter comfortable classroom routines. (I am in category #2; I have used pencil-and-paper exit tickets for two years, now. I hate all the paper-pushing, but overall, it’s worked.) A handful of teachers at my school use clickers to give summative assessments (the clickers enable those teachers to bypass time-consuming data collating) – but none of my colleagues are using clickers to formatively assess. (Consequently, any feedback / tips / thoughts / resources you can share with me on this topic would be invaluable.)
I’m thinking that, during first quarter (and maybe first semester), I will use five-question clicker mini-quizzes as a substitute for my exit tickets. (I feel a little weird that the clickers might determine my seating arrangement—either that, or I will need to develop some uber-smooth procedure for having kids retrieve/return them, each block.) Basically, I want to ease myself in. Eventually, though, as I learn the ins and outs of the technology, I’m hoping to use them throughout class, to help drive my instruction (kind of like Harvard Professor Eric Mazur does in this fantastic video). I do not think that using clickers simply as a substitute for paper-and-pencil exit tickets is especially purposeful or advantageous. In other words, this goal will really only pack a punch if I can get myself to build in strategic clicker use as a way to prompt student discussion and interaction.
Oh! I’m going to have students designate a section of their binder to recording their exit ticket work, and taking notes on their errors. (I think this binder section will be a great place from which kids can draw artifacts to reflect on in their e-portfolios.)
Some less daunting goals / plans:
- Read this and this. (Thanks for the inspriation, @cheesemonkeysf.)
- Write lots of stuff, here. (I have a long list of posts for ideas! After overcoming the terrifying fear of putting up that first entry, I am feeling much more at ease, and – honestly – inspired.)
- Develop a list of great readings that will inspire rich, meaningful conversation among the first-year teachers who I support.
- Start using Evernote in effort to be more strategic about hanging onto, organizing, and then (hopefully, eventually) implementing the great ideas that I encounter online.